Application Review Process - Best Practices
Hi everyone – my questions relate to the overall grant application review process / workflow and the assignment of reviewers for applications. Some background first: We launched a one-cycle grant program earlier this year. We had an LOI stage and have gotten back to applicants on whether or not they advance to the full application stage. Applicants that advanced are now developing their full applications.
My questions are:
1) What does your overall review process look like? Do you have review meetings where reviewers come prepared to discuss their recommendations? If so, how do you structure those discussions? For example, do you review applications by focus priority? Does the grant team come prepared with its own recommendations?
2) For those of you that have an LOI stage followed by a full application:
When you assign reviewers to the second round of reviews (for the full app), do you assign them the same proposals as they read during the LOI stage? Or do you assign them different proposals to review ? I like the continuity of reading the full app / proposals for the same ones I read during the LOI stage but would like to know what is considered a best / common practice.
We just switched to GLM from using multiple, disjointed systems. We have done the first iterations of our roll-out over the past few months. Just a caution – we’re still figuring out what process will work the best for us, but we’ve talked through this first round with our onboarding customer success manager and he thinks it’ll be successful.
We're moving into our full roll-out with communications this next month with the application open all of August. Our committees that review the grant applications (they are also our ambassadors for the Foundation within their respective communities that we serve) meet on a quarterly basis (Sept., Dec., March, June).
We have no LOI. As I said, our applications will be open in August, the committees will next meet in September. Following the staff's pre-review, the committees will review the applicants and determine if they need to do further assessment of the organization (such as a site visit or interview) that will be assigned to one, possibly two committee members per proposal. This may take place if the organization is new or if the grant request is over $XX,XXX. We're leaving this determination to each committee's discretion this first round.
After the September meeting, each committee member will then be assigned each proposal application for their community group in GLM and will have until the next meeting in December to submit their reviews (+any additional site visit or interview info as assigned). The reviews and scores they submit will be used as a starting point for discussion and decisions at the December meeting. Our customer success manager recommended that applications that scored above 70% in the review submissions be on the consent agenda to approve, and perhaps the discussion would only be to determine the amount. Any proposal that scored less than 70% would be declined unless a committee member wanted to fight for it and provide an argument of why it should be supported (further discussion would then likely ensue).
I hope the outline of our process helps!
Philanthropic Services Officer
Community Foundation of Northern Colorado
Just wanted to chime in because this is a really great discussion and something I have been thinking about revamping for our Foundation. We currently operate 2 grant cycles, a Spring and Fall cycle. We do not currently have an LOI process. Instead, we use an eligibility quiz at the beginning to determine if an applicant is eligible to apply for funding. Once deemed eligible they can complete the entire application and budget. On our application, we ask applicants to list staff they work with. Since we are a statewide organization, we have what are called tennis service representatives in each region of the state to assist the community in developing tennis programs. So, we use staff as the first level of reviewers, since they more than likely work closely with these organizations and will be able to provide background that I may not be privy to. If staff is not listed, I will conduct my own internal review based on the application as is. Regardless, I review and provide recommendations on all applications received, my review is just the only one if staff isn't listed. Once the first round of reviews is done, I then prepare a docket for the Board and assign them their reviews on the backend of our grant management system. We currently use WizeHive but looking to change to Foundant. The Board is then provided a link to access the review portal and their assignments. They each score applications and provide an amount to be awarded. We then average the amount awarded to get the final award amount. Once that is determined, we begin preparing the Award Letter if they were awarded or a denial if they weren't. Each review stage is about 2 weeks and also done in batches based on the number of requests/applications we receive.
I am looking to form an actual review committee. So, my thoughts are pulling an application together for staff to apply if they are interested in applying. Once the committee is formed, we will then create a schedule to meet and review applications together and have discussions rather than reviews being done individually and through a form on a review portal. I don't think I will be able to change much when it comes to how the Board reviews since they are volunteers and hard to get them in a meeting during the day when I am available. Curious to hear what others are doing and how they get a Board together to review applications. I would so love to start doing that and think it would add more value and have greater impact at the end of the day.